I spent four months in Chamonix, setting up as a yoga teacher out there and enjoying the snow. Here is what I learned against the backdrop of the spectacular alps.
This might seem incredibly obvious, but even with arriving a month in advance of the winter season launching I was on the backfoot. I was extremely fortunate that my sister had been there over a year at this point and knew the places to job hunt, as well as people who knew people who might have a studio space for rent. Without that month, it would have been much much more difficult. If I had of had another month, it would have been even easier. The problem is once December hits, people are completely wrapped up in preparation for Christmas.
2. When you’re new in town it’s hard to get established
This was a little disappointing for me, and perhaps a little naive of me. As a newbie in town, my first port of call was to make contact with all the yoga studios in town. My disappointment stems from the lack of responsiveness from the studios. Of those I contacted, only two responded to my enquiries, it was far from the community feeling I had come to know in London. My naïveté comes from assuming there would be the same vibe in a different place without being known for a while. I got where I was in London from years of practice and being known at my studio. Here I was just a hopeful blow in.
3. It’s cold
Yeah duh. But don’t underestimate how much this can effect your practice. Getting the muster to get on your mat is hard when your room is encroaching minus temperatures. Warm clothes, water bottles, portable heaters are all good additions to keep you toasty at home. Be prepared for studios to potentially be colder than you expect too, from time to time! Warm ups will take longer but are ever more crucial in the cold too.
A lesson learned first hand. Snow = super fun happy slide until somebody gets hurt. In this case that somebody was my neck (so long lordosis!). Injuries are a great learning curve, sadly I just didn’t realise how injured I was until much later than the incident. And it certainly had a knock on effect on my practice.
Following on from 4, you can get injured. And so can your students. Be prepared to deal with all sorts of injuries, from minor twangs to destroyed knees.
6. Maintaining balance
This is something I struggled with for sure. It’s so easy to be tempted by the allure of après, vast amounts of cheese and sweet pastries and bread. Balancing your food in France seemed a far harder task than in London.
So on my travels I have discovered that most places have various online communities – buy and sell pages, yoga pages, job offers, accomodations, you name it. When I began offering classes in Chamonix, I ran a marketing campaign online over Facebook. The results were so: Facebook marketing resulted in two new followers on my yoga page, based in random places and cost €5. Advertising on local Facebook pages = free and resulted in good attendance at my classes.
8. Keep trying
The reality is, you will need a second income stream to get rolling. I cleaned a couple of days a week. I never had the chance to partake in other local classes so remained outside the yoga community. My attendance rose and fell and rose and fell. You will be effected by how much snow fall there has been, people will have visitors, and Saturday evenings are a write off (change over days in many resorts). Keep at it. You will begin to pick up regulars, and they will bring friends!
The greatest boon to exploring new places and making new friends is these are amazing future connections. I met chefs, people who rent chalets, people willing to reteach me how to climb, have coffees and snowboard with. Which puts me in an incredibly fortunate position, if I were to decide to go back or to run a retreat there, I now both have friends and business contacts!